Media (and more) Madness
I was disappointed to see hardly any more people at 9:00 Mass this morning than an average weekday Mass (about 75-100 for weekday Mass and maybe double that at the first Mass today). Yes, there are six other Masses, it is true, but undoubtedly in normal times all would be packed. Remember when churches would add extra chairs in every available nook and cranny and still it was SRO? Now, my church still has every other pew roped off and yet still appears sparse (and undoubtedly my experience is not unique).
I put much blame on the media for this madness as well as the willingness, sometimes bordering on enthusiastic, of churches to restrict and — uniformly in this country — to eliminate access to the sacraments, at least in the early months of the pandemic, with seeming eagerness.
Of course, the pandemic is serious. Of course, vulnerable persons should take smart precautions. But, there is no way that the numbers abandoning Mass since March of last year comes close to the numbers, statistically, who are most in danger from the virus.
When trust in God falls so far behind concern for physical well-being, especially among those who have next to zero chance of being severely impacted by corona, things are bad. Instead of taking this disease as a warning salvo from the Lord, folks are far too quick to abandon the sacraments. Faith is lacking, catechesis has long been wanting, and the Church has been far too accommodating to the secular authorities and culture.
Back to the media, the hysteria they generate is over the top. Desperate for viewers and clicks, they serve up worst care scenarios, give conflicting data, and twist statistics to serve their preferred story line. Yet, far too many viewers are sucked in hook, line, and sinker. If people of faith would spend the time in which they imbibe the various forms of media, whether MSM or social, instead in prayer, contemplation, spiritual reading, and viewing wholesome, inspirational, and instructive presentations, maybe their understanding and priorities would align with what is truly important. Life here is short, life eternal is what matters.
The steady decline in Church attendance has ramped up theses last twenty or so months. Maybe what Fr. Ratzinger saw in 1969 is coming even more quickly:
From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning.
Well, I want to be in that (small) number, come corona or high water or whatever else nature, man, or the devil may foist upon us.
[A[ll the ends of the earth will beholdIs 52:10b
the salvation of our God.
It strikes me that the beautiful reading from Isaiah from the Mass During the Day, is a clarion call for evangelization. God could have chosen to reveal Himself to all persons in every age in any way He wanted. Yet, He chose from ancient days an (to say the least) imperfect people to be the instruments of revealing Himself to the world. That instrument hit far too many sour notes as it was more likely to be handed over to an idolatrous culture than to transform that culture with the truth.
Well, the Lord does end up coming to us in time, to take care of us since we could not do it ourselves. But even then He graces us with His physical presence in the form of a man for only thirty-three years, leaving a motley band of eleven to “[g]o into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15).
Which brings us to the awesome prologue of John in today’s Gospel:
He was in the world,Jn 1:10-11
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.
Certainly, far too many on this planet do not know Christ, even if they know about Him. That certainly is an evangelistic failure — a failure of Christian witness.
But, more disturbing, is that “his own people did not accept him.” Is this not even more true today? Claiming Christianity as one’s own, but not adhering to the words of the Word, indicates a lack of acceptance of Jesus.
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.mt 7:21
What sort of witness do we give when we don’t believe, or at least adhere to in word and deed, what the Lord has revealed to us? What does it say about or fortitude and courage when we allow the depraved secular culture to steamroll objective morality instead of steadfastly and boldly standing firm against the prevailing, sometimes hurricane force, winds? How many persons, open to the Christian message, have rejected the Church because of the scandal given by those claiming adherence to the Faith?
My spiritual reading these days comes from the book Secular Holiness by Fr. Paul Hinnebusch. I very much like the terminology he uses for “a life lived according to God’s will”: secular worship. He goes on to say:
Secular worship, then is the expression of daily life of the inner devotion of the heart, it is a life lived in devoted acceptance and implementation of the will of God, it is a life lived in righteousness.p. 63
Yes, walking the walk, as well as talking the talk, makes our lives a living testament to worshiping the one true God always. This is how we fulfill Paul’s exhortation to “[p]ray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17).
(By the way, regarding John’s Prologue, I just heard of a new book by Anthony Esolen devoted to just those eighteen verses. He is a gifted thinker and writer. Check it out.)
The Woman Caught in Adultery
I recently listened to the St. Paul Center’s “Road to Emmaus” podcast episode “Jesus and the Law.” What I would give if I could get every homilist to listen to this and preach this Gospel Passage based on it. You will be hard-pressed to find a better way to spend a half-hour of your time. You will never listen or read this story again in the same way. (The passage and commentary Dr. Hahn refers to can be found here.)
I highly recommend purchasing the entire New Testament of this series here.
Have yourself a Merry (and Blessed) little Christmas now.